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Turns Out, ‘Runner’s High’ Is Way More Literal Than You Thought

Cannabinoids. The same chemicals responsible (sorta, it’s complicated) for the high one gets from cannabis, or marijuana, and which the body produces naturally in the form of endocannabinoids, are actually what you’re chasing if you’re chasing a runner’s high. So says a new study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology and reported on by the New York Times.

For years people credited endorphins with the vaguely euphoric state many people feel during and immediately after long bouts of aerobic exercise. Endorphins are elevated in the blood during such times, after all. But, it turns out, endorphins can’t cross the blood brain barrier and therefore can’t affect mood.

But cannabinoids can.

The study blocked the uptake of endorphins in the body of test subjects running on treadmills, but the subjects still reported feeling a runner’s high. And previous studies showed that blocking the uptake of endocannabonoids in mice during aerobic activity caused them to act jittery and stop.

The researchers thus concluded: It’s not the endorphins, it’s the cannabinoids. Pretty cool, but raises even more questions, chiefly, did we evolve a runner’s high as a means of keeping us from stopping? Why else do we produce endocannabinoids when we’re running?

Nobody yet knows.

Check out the study, here.

Photo: Nathalie Désirée Mottet/Unsplash

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